FDA Creates a Certification for Foreign Food Suppliers: VQIP
(Friday, July 27, 2023)
This week, FDA announced the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) primarily designed for foreign food importers to expedite entry of their food products for human and animal consumption in the US. This program will be additional to the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) that is required for the US-based importers of these products. The VQIP program is intended to reduce screening of each shipment of food from registered suppliers.
All imported food shipments are screened by the FDA inspectors at the ports of entry for compliance with US requirements for food supply chain. FDA defines a food importer as the person that brings food, or causes food to be brought, from a foreign country into the US. A VQIP importer can be located outside the US. A VQIP importer could be the manufacturer, owner, consignee, and/or importer of record of a food.
There are two levels of importers of food in the US regulations: First, the party in another country from where the food is being imported into the US. And second, the party in the US who is the importer of record in the custom declarations. The second party is responsible to pay the applicable custom fees and taxes and is legally liable for the imported shipment. The second party could also be the US agent. The same person could meet both definitions. However, mostly an importer in a foreign country and the importer of record located in the US are different individuals. For business reasons, a foreign importer may ship their food via several importers of record and an importer of record may represent multiple foreign importers. Hence, the VQIP creates an incentive for the foreign suppliers/importers of food to the US by creating a direct registration with the FDA independent of an importer of record.
The VQIP registration is annual and there is a user fee associated with this registration. As the name indicates, it is not a requirement for foreign manufacturers to export their products to the US, but a voluntary service. To be eligible for VQIP registration, a foreign importer must have at least 3 years history of importing food into the US, must have a D&B number, use a paperless broker, and must be compliant with US food GMP requirements.
The FDA guidance on the VQIP registration requirements discusses all aspects of this program relevant not only to foreign food importers but also to the importers of record in the US as a vetting criterion for reliable food importers.
Dr. Mukesh Kumar
Founder & CEO, FDAMap
Linkedin: Mukesh Kumar, PhD, RAC